At least Gaff showed remorse – reserve your anger for serial offenders
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At least Gaff showed remorse – reserve your anger for serial offenders

The Andrew Gaff punch? I’m with everyone, led by the admirable Ralph Kelly – who lost a son to just such a punch – in saying sport must rid itself of such appalling violence and there can be no excuses. My only rider is this.

At least Gaff – like Australian cricket captain Steve Smith early in the year – was upfront about his remorse, and that, surely is the key to redemption.

It is hard to stay angry at someone for too long when your own emotions at their actions does not remotely match their own. And I also suspect there are many out there who, just like me, have at least a small feeling of “There but for the grace of God go I...”

Personally, I remember several moment of sheer madness like that on the rugby field, when you are weeping adrenalin, when you are simply not thinking straight, when a red mist descended. The difference is, most of us were not skilled enough to connect.

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Of course Gaff deserved a lengthy suspension and he got one. But the ones to rub out of sport entirely are less those with brain-snaps than those who are consistently violent, with charity for none, malice for all.

A goal bigger than winning

Last month the mighty Maroubra Saints Junior AFL under-9s side slightly altered course. Following a tough round nine, the club president and coach of this side, Carl Lee, decided that for round 10 there was something far more important than winning. As there were two of the 14 players who had not yet known the thrill of seeing the ball arc off their foot and go through the sticks for a GOOOOOOOOOAL, the sole mission set by the coach was for all the players to ensure these two each got their first in the round-10 game.

Yes, Sireeees!

From the opening whistle, all the lads rallied round both players kicking and passing them ball after ball to give them every chance and, sure enough, nearing the end of the first quarter, one of the lads, Mitch grabs the ball! Watch him now as he swivels left, shimmies right, brings his swinging right boot through at the exact moment that he drops the ball on it and through she goes!

The goal umpire does that weird semaphore that goals umps do with the white flags which translates to “You bloody beauty, he’s done it!” as Mitch is engulfed by his joyous teammates and his parents and friends on the sidelines go wild.

One down, one to go.

What of the other kid, Buddy, a real talent, who hasn’t had any luck yet, the whole year long. As the game wears on the tension mounts, even as his teammates keep running themselves ragged to get him the nugget. With 15 minutes to go, he fires one towards the goal, but it veers and this time the semaphore says “Booger! Nearly. Just one point.” The same happens again with 10 to go. Tension goes higher still as the time ebbs away and . . .

And wait! He’s got the pill, the agate, the nugget! He’s bouncing, once, twice, thrice, as the defence closes in. He kicks it over their heads, and it is rolling towards the goal. But will it make it..?

Dribble, bump, bumble, dribbbllllllle ... over!

Semaphore: “He’s done it!”

Buddy, too, now knows the same joy of kicking a goal as everyone else. What are we? We are a team! The Maroubra Saints under-9s, we’ll tell a man we are!

Elvis is engulfed, the sidelines cheer themselves hoarse, some of them weeping, and the game is over. Who won? Who cares?

Say it after me: Gotta love this city!

Thoughts with an old friend

On behalf of, dinkum, everyone, TFF sends best wishes to my former teammate, Richard Tombs who, last week was playing as goalie in a fun soccer match when a fearful, but entirely inadvertent accident saw him go down with a grievous spinal cord injury. He is now stable and in Intensive Care at Royal North Shore Hospital. It is still way too early to know what the prognosis is, what care he will need and all the rest. He is being strongly supported by wife Clarissa and three daughters, together with many in the rugby community.

For a great cause

Whatever happens with Richard Tombs, many of those who suffer severe injuries in sport need help, which is why the Cauliflower Club was formed six years ago. The broad idea was to get rugby people together for a rugby fellowship, long after their playing days are over, and raise funds for people who suffer injuries through sport at the same time.

Big-name speaker: Wally Lewis.

Big-name speaker: Wally Lewis.

All members put in $50 every time a Wallaby front-rower scores a Test try, for starters. Last year’s lunch line-up of speakers, with Tony Abbott, Alan Jones, Twiggy Forrest and Michael Cheika, was the best yet. This year’s lunch is at the Hyatt Regency on Sussex St on 12 October, and we are looking at legendary rugby league players who learnt, or at least polished, their fabulous skills in rugby union. Yes, courtesy in no small part to our hardworking new chair John Fordham, we will have none other than Wally Lewis, Michael O’Connor and Ricky Stuart on deck! Tickets at www.cauliflowerclub.org.au.

Barnaby Joyce's 'tell-all' book.

Barnaby Joyce's 'tell-all' book.

Ramming the point home

In his just released memoirs, Weatherboard and Iron, Barnaby Joyce talks of the reaction when, in the public domain, he doubted the paternity of his own soon-to-be-born child.

”A few old football friends rang and said, ‘don’t move, we’re coming to see you’.”

Old footie mates are like that, bless ‘em. “Mate, what are you doing?” “Mate, pull your bloody head in!” “Mate, are you ok?” They tell you what you need to be told, in a manner that dozens of media advisers, spin-doctors, and even political colleagues cannot hope to achieve. “Yes, you are the recently deposed Deputy PM, but far more importantly than that, you are ‘BJ’ from the Walcha Rams, we’ve brawled and bawled together, we’ve known victory and defeat, great times and tough times, and there can be no artifice between us. So bring it in tight, you ol’ dickhead...”

In his memoirs, Joyce explains that his “terrible mistake” was due to “perverse logic,” whereby he sought to confuse the media, not the issue of his paternity.

“Somehow I thought that creating doubt by not having all the details might switch this frenzy off,” he wrote. “You are not logical when under intense pressure for weeks.”

So good on you Walcha Rams. You just should have got to him years ago.

What They Said

Illustration: John Shakespeare

Illustration: John Shakespeare

On Wednesday, Briony Lyle released the sad news of her husband, the deeply admired golfer: “It breaks my heart to tell everyone that Jarrod is no longer with us He asked that I provide a simple message: ‘Thanks for your support, it meant the world. My time was short, but if I’ve helped people think and act on behalf of those families who suffer through cancer, hopefully it wasn’t wasted.”

Madonna, now living in Portugal, to allow her talented 12-year-old son, David Banda, to train with the Benfica youth soccer. She told Vogue Italia, “I’m a soccer mom. It kind of requires you to have no life”. Bend it like Banda.

Ricky Stuart on abuse of referee Matt Cecchin: “I do sympathise with him and I 150 per cent understand what he's saying about being over the game and it's sad. He's been courageous in terms of saying it how it is and it's probably what gets us in trouble sometimes.”

Joe Root after a close win against India: “It shows that there's so much more than runs and wickets and skill in Test cricket, you've got to have a bit more.”

Andrew Gaff on unleashing a punch to shatter the jaw of opponent and friend Andrew Brayshaw in the clash between Fremantle and the West Coast Eagles last Sunday: “I feel sick. I feel sick about it. I did the wrong thing and I’d like to think it doesn’t indicate my character. My main thought is how he is. I’m very remorseful and feel sick about it. What will happen will happen. My only thought is how Andy is. It is what it is and what will happen will happen.”

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Serena Williams on being an athlete and mother to a tiny daughter: “Although I have been with her every day of her life, I'm not around as much as I would like to be. Most of you moms deal with the same thing. Whether stay-at-home or working, finding that balance with kids is a true art. You are the true heroes. I’m here to say: if you are having a rough day or week–it’s ok–I am, too!!!”

Susan Alberti not happy with how AFL is treating AFLW, by not taking the competition to the next level, with a longer season. “I think it’s disgusting what’s happened. We’ve just gone back another 100 years. This is crazy. We’re either serious about this league or we’re not, we’re going to put resources into it or we’re not. You’ve got to invest to make this thing happen.”

Gold Coast Suns CEO Mark Evans on the struggles his club faces to attract top players: “If there are people out there, managers, who are prepared to get up on radio and say ‘Don't go to the Gold Coast’, we'll have them in court as quick as we can. Tell them to get on the radio and put their balls on the line on radio, and then I'll smash them in the court.” Goodness!

Former South African cricketer and ICC CEO Dave Richardson on why sledging doesn’t work: “We tried to unsettle Steve Waugh by asking him what it was like to be the unpopular twin, with Mark getting all the toys when they were growing up – it had no effect and only made him more determined, seemingly getting runs whenever he batted against us.” No, me neither. I never heard they used that as a sledge either. But it kind of beggars belief, yes? “Hey, Steve, I bet Mark got all the toys, when you were growing up!”

Team of the Week

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Billy Slater. Let the record show, that in the end, the only person who could catch The Kid was Father Time, and even then it took a long time. At the age of 35, announced on Wednesday that he’s hanging up the boots at the end of the season.

Alex Johnson. Successfully returned to the Swans after 2136 days on the sidelines.

Crusaders. Back-to-back Super Rugby champions for their ninth title overall. With all the speculation about what format works best for Super Rugby maybe the most efficient is to hand them the trophy at the start and be done with it.

Australian Steelers. They lost by just a point to Japan, 62-61, in the gold medal match of the Wheelchair Rugby World Championships at Homebush on Friday afternoon. The Steelers had beaten Japan in their pool match 65-52.

English Premier League. New season begins this weekend.

Daniel Ricciardo. Leaving Red Bull for Renault. Personally, I was only just aware that he had arrived at Red Bull – which I thought was an unhealthy drink - but I suspect that is nothing less than tragic.

Sydney Boys High Rugby Lunch. It’s happening on 7 September 7 at AJC. As if you didn’t know, the school has produced 27 Wallabies including five captains – many of whom will be there – and it should be a great lunch. Call Smithers.

Tia-Clair Toomey. The Brisbane athlete was crowned the “Fittest Woman on Earth” for the second year in a row after a powerful performance at the 2018 Crossfit Games.

Joeys/Kings. At their annual rugby match last Saturday, just under $100,000 was raised by the combined crowd, for Rural Aid Australia and the Buy a Bale scheme.

RIP Jarrod Lyle. 1981-2018. After first beating cancer in 1988, and then again in 2012, he finally succumbed last Wednesday. Vale, the family man fighter and fine golfer.

Peter FitzSimons is a Herald journalist, columnist and author, based in Sydney. He is also a former Wallabies player.

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